Peer Review by annacatherine (Australia)

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The Meaning of Intelligence

By: Ruth Dempsey


From a young age we are taught the importance of education and grades, and of course, it is important, however as school systems are at the moment they are not good gauges of a child's intelligence. You are always encouraged to pay attention in class and to do well in exams in order to be intelligent. Growing up I feared the thought of failing because then I wouldn't be intelligent. All of my friends and classmates had the same fear and would study hard for even the smallest class tests or even resort to cheating. This fear of failure and need to be deemed intelligent was just a normal part of our daily school life.

The moment I realized how wrong these ideas of intelligence are was the first and only time I have ever failed an exam. I had been struggling with the subject for a long time and the teacher was very strict as he was determined to make sure everyone got the minimum amount of marks to pass. He didn't want us to ruin his reputation as a teacher. I studied hard but just couldn't get the information into my head. I felt stressed and panicked the night before the exam. I knew I had failed before the results were even calculated but the strange thing was; I didn't feel any different. I didn't feel like I was any less intelligent just because I had failed an exam. I had tried my best. However when my father heard the news I could sense the disappointment in his voice and in his body language. He had left school at a young age and yet in that moment he seemed to look at me differently because I failed one exam after countless passes.

After this experience my fear of failure lessened. I still worked hard but I didn't let it take control of my life. I realized just how much of an effect this narrow idea of intelligence has on people. I had friends who would cry over their open textbooks and get no sleep the night before an exam in order to study. We all know a tragic tale of a young person harming or killing themselves because they can't cope with the pressure of exams. All of this just because we fear the idea of not being intelligent. However how can a simple exam prove or disprove a persons intelligence? Is a person stupid if they can't tell you difference between meiosis and mitosis? Or if they can't tell you the weather in several languages? I have come to realize that there are countless forms of intelligence that are not tested or learned in school. There are people who can recreate songs after hearing them once and people who can make paintings that look real enough to touch. There are people who can make the most delicious meals and people who can create entire worlds with their words. Of course there are people who can learn and recite countless facts but that is simply one form of intelligence. There are classes for these talents in schools but they come with restrictions and not all schools can provide a full curriculum and subjects get cut. Students must work within the confines the education system has set for them while believing they are not intelligent because their skills are not fully understood or appreciated where grades take priority over everything else, even the health of its occupants.

Peer Review

I love how this piece is so easy to relate to. It is beautifully written and is able to connect with the emotions of every single person who's ever cared about school.

I'd want to know more about your friends experiences, how your grades and progress in school generally (and maybe also what subjects you enjoyed and did well in) and how you felt in greater detail when you failed.

Reviewer Comments

This piece is amazing :)